On the Sunday just before the election, in front of a room full of people and reporters in Kingman, Arizona, i asked AZ Democrat darling, gubernatorial hopeful Terry Goddard, point blank: "Sir, we see that the right-wing, the GOP, not only embraces their extreme members, the Tea Party, but in fact have taken to championing their causes. Why is it the Democrats are continuingly attempting to distance themselves from their liberal base?"
After a quick gasp, the room gulped silent, and leaned in at the two of us, glancing back and forth between like a sports bar crowd trying to watch a ping-pong match in 3X fast-forward. Utterly unruffled, Goddard simply flashed his patented politician smile for the cameras then turned to me and, in the epitome of feigned innocence, asked, "What makes you say that? I'm not sure what you are talking about." He grinned, inviting the audience to join him in disbelief. "Can you give an example?" he asked and the room turned my way.
After a brief paralyzing instance where i ran through the all-time favorites from that very long list of national issues the Dems had deserted liberals and progressives over (such as Bush war crimes, defunding the national war machine, mortgage relief, Wall Street indictments, and universal health care just to name a quick 5). But i knew he could quickly deflect those as not of his purview.
Desperately seeking an equally compelling AZ state issue, i finally settled the old, and guaranteed ineffective, standby. "Well, how about Prop 203?" [the medical marijuana proposal]?
Anyone want to guess his reaction to me, a volunteer who, for months, had donated hours, and cash, and gallons of gas trucking his signs around my end of the state for this long-time professional politician who promised HE was the best choice to represent my interests?
That's right, he laughed at me.
And then proceeded to further casually condescend about why the party couldn't get involved in individuals' "pet issues." Two days later Terry Goddard lost by nearly 13% of the votes cast in an election where 60% of those who could vote didn't, showing that they cared no more for Terry Goddard's "pet issues" than he did for theirs.
Earlier that week, in a different room full of different people, this time in Bullhead City, i had asked another would-be Dem emperor about his choice of clothing--US Senate candidate, Tucson rich guy Rodney Glassman. I had arrived a bit late, as usual, in this case having been lost, but eventually found the place by spying Glassman's distinctive full-sized lavishly decorated tour bus in front of a local union hall.
As a devoted Dem volunteer, i had performed similar services and made similar donations of time, cash, and gas for Glassman as well, including one 720 mile round trip, on my own time and my own dime, driving his signs to the farthest northern regions of the state. If the guy was over in our end of the state i was going to try and catch a glimpse of him just to remind myself of who i was working for.
[Full disclosure--though it took some time and effort in all honesty, in comparison, my efforts for all of AZ statewide Dem candidates combined were minimal next to this one state senate with this one candidate i absolutely loved. You see, in addition to occasionally carrying and posting signs for those guys, i mostly did volunteer work for my wife Beth's equally Dem doomed campaign, but still.]
Finding myself without paper during the Q&A portion of Glassman's final whistle-stop visit, i painstakingly undid one of the numerous donation envelopes he'd showered the room with and carefully wrote out my question. I wanted to get it right.
When i finally got a turn he was halfway towards the front door. "Mr. Glassman," i asked, referring to my notes. "First let me remind you, assure you, i am a supporter and have done volunteer work for you for months. I'm not making this question up to embarrass you, but i would really like to know. Right now, the elephant in the room that nobody's talking about is that the rich are running our country like it's their own plutocracy, again and again shaping our government to suit themselves at the expense and misery of the public and paying politicians to do their bidding for them. And until we fix that we're all going to suffer. This problem has a long history in the US Senate, which used to be called 'The Millionaire's Club.' Mr. Glassman, a lot of us are working pretty hard to get you elected, and if you do get elected, how can we be sure you're not going to turn around and feed at the trough like all the other politicians we send to Washington to protect us?"
Now, audience, you know that look folks get when they discover they just took an unsuspecting sip of sour milk? It only lasted a second, but Glassman got it; the look i mean, though i will never be sure if he actually got my point. For within seconds, he had focused in on the now-folded up donation envelope that still rattled in my hands. His eyes narrowed and he asked, "Wait a minute. Have you donated to my campaign?"
[Full disclosure, once more: My wife, Beth, had funded her campaign for the State Senate seat in LD3 through the state's "Clean Elections" program. Paid for from donations and various state fees, other than taxes, the Clean Election program, one of several across the country, funds qualified candidates who collect enough public support as shown through signed candidate petitions and $5 donations. While the program supplies candidates with a considerable amount of funding (up to $15,000 for their primary campaign and another $25,000 if they should qualify for the general election) the program also limits candidate spending and public donations are kept to $5 max.
Meanwhile, Glassman had run a traditional campaign with no set spending limits and a Citizens' United style interest in corporate donations (not that any Dem saw much of that action this go-round). As a US Senate candidate, according to Phoenix New Times' James King, Glassman burned through well over a million and a half bucks including $500,000 of his money. As a minor league candidate's eye candy, i had trailed my wife everywhere and had run into Rodney and his donation envelopes at a number of Dem events and had never gotten used to this rich guy trying to get me to give him money.]
However, at that moment that Monday in Bullhead City, unmanned by the intensity of his gaze, i stumbled, forgetting about the very 1st fundraiser, over a year earlier, when i had just met him and against my gut instincts, had handed over a $20 we couldn't afford. "I don't remember," i said. "I don't think so. If i did, it wouldn't have been much; i don't generally have much, and further i believe in working for the candidates i believe in, not just throwing money at them."